Slowing global economies and increasing energy prices are set to be a defining backdrop to industry throughout 2023. The sustainability imperative continues to occupy the thoughts of business leaders, yet the energy outlook is prompting fears that a refocus on fossil fuels will delay the green energy transition. With this in mind, some of our innovation experts have viewed their technology predictions for 2023 partly through the lens of energy and sustainability. While looking ahead, the team explored a number of other areas, including the metaverse, 5G connectivity and intelligent beamforming.
Martin Cookson, Director of Service Innovation, says that energy management demands digital solutions. The energy and climate crises, along with the rise of electric vehicles and local energy generation, mean that households and businesses alike are searching for solutions. He predicts a focus on understanding the analytics of consumption to help make complex, dynamic decisions across a multitude of heterogeneous systems. Digital service innovation will be instrumental in shaping systems that blend data understanding with the algorithms that will reflect the way we want to live and the connectivity that’s needed to control devices.
Predictions reflecting the coming metaverse
Away from energy, Martin sees this as the year when we will cross the chasm into 3D worlds. Business in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets is seeing massive growth as the public becomes alert to the new immersive technologies. Employees are exploring new ways to collaborate while business is researching new ways to find insights. The huge headway and sophisticated technology progress made by the online gaming industry will ripple across sectors as the world begins to enter the emerging metaverse.
Martin’s third technology trend to look out for this year is decentralisation. The power of internet platforms has helped society make huge advances. While it has delivered fantastic end-user convenience and phenomena such as social networks, consumers have paid a price for it with their data. Decentralised platform models, on the other hand, allow the user to maintain the rights to their data via a permission management protocol or a digital wallet to gate access.
Given the experience of recent years, Martin feels that trust is the main value that technology companies should lead with. Some of the big social media platforms seem to be running out of steam while others, such as Twitter, are struggling to regulate the power and influence they have on society. Martin expects that decentralization will represent a better deal for consumers, a fairer reward for content creators and platform for the evolution of business models.
Predictions for the 5G mobile network
Elaborating on one of Martin’s themes – connectivity – Associate Director Mark England thinks that 2023 will be the year when the world starts to see the real benefits of 5G. To date it’s been viewed as little more than faster 4G and has been hindered by limited rollout. As with past mobile network generations, some people are at the stage of asking whether it’s even needed – as this BBC report highlights.
But Mark predicts that new technologies such as Open RAN and private networks – along with the increasing rollout of standalone 5G radio networks and energy efficient edge processing – will confirm 5G as much more than just 4G with go-faster stripes.
Moving to the realm of satellite and high-altitude comms now, and Mark expects that in 2023 intelligent beam forming systems will allow new radio network operating paradigms to be created. Many radio networks are dependent on static beam forming systems, and the purpose of them is often to get more calls into a given spectrum.
The confluence of both low power, high speed AI for prediction and the move to ever higher frequencies creates the potential for intelligent beamforming. Many new opportunities will be opened up by this. For example, it could allow radio systems to dynamically trade operating parameters by using more beams to serve smaller areas. This would reduce wasted transmissions power, increase overall spectrum capacity or dynamically trade between a range of parameters to improve overall radio system efficiency.
Predictions for semiconductor technology
Switching to the silicon sector now, where Aidong Xu, Head of Semiconductor Capability, envisions a year when semiconductor technology will come to the fore in driving sustainability. The modular integrated circuit architectures of chiplets and 3DIC heterogeneous integration will gain prominence in 2023. This will create chips that occupy smaller areas with greater computing power and less energy consumption – and keep alive ‘Moore’s law’ which states that the number of transistors in a semiconductor chip doubles about every two years.
Aidong also predicts that we will see wider commercial availability of ‘brain chips’ – dedicated AI chips, neuromorphic computing, in-memory computing and so on. Again, this will meet the objective of high computation performance married to low power consumption.
AI can help balance energy consumption and performance
When it comes to artificial intelligence, Associate Director Maya Dillon and Senior VP, AI, Ram Naidu agree that balancing energy consumption with real-time process control for improved performance will require advanced AI at the edge, with sensors for process management, optimisation and quality assurance.
It has already been demonstrated that complex AI algorithms can be optimised to work on low-power devices. During 2023, the desire to move computation, analysis and insight directly onto supporting, visual, audio, and haptic devices will drive further research. It will encompass algorithm optimisation, innovative and efficient cooling of data centres, and the fundamental development of chips as referred to by Aidong.
Maya and Ram also predict that AI will increasingly inform and enable the formulation and creation of new products and compute platforms through the efficient design of experiments and sustainable sourcing. AI-enabled in silico design will optimize the targeted use of energy-intensive laboratory and manufacturing processes to develop more effective and sustainable materials and products.
AI for business efficiency and sustainability
Taking a wider industry view, they expect a continuing trend in 2023 for AI implementation to move from a tactical play to a strategic one. Businesses are moving away from short-term initiatives and turning to long-term changes impacting their organisations at fundamental levels. These will range from data aggregation management and AI-ready infrastructure to preparing their workforce for new ways of working in partnership with intelligent technology. The drivers for growth include improving business resilience and efficiency, increasing sustainability, and nurturing human wellness and creativity.
On that last point, AI will increasingly support human-machine teaming by sensing operator fatigue, enabling operator wellness and supporting human creativity. 2023 will take us deeper into the emerging and exciting realm of human-machine understanding (HMU) – AI that can predict, adjust for and enable users to identify and execute appropriate action in complex dynamic situations. The unpredictability of climate change will bring complexity to issues such as energy use, energy sourcing and the optimisation of natural resources – and will force humanity onto the back foot. Here HMU will be valuable in unlocking opportunities from industry 5.0, particularly in supporting sustainability goals by enabling humans to exploit data in unusual ways for decision-making around effective design innovation and resource, energy and supply chain management.
There are now use cases which will become a reality for supporting multiple potential scenarios. These include increasing the situational awareness of surgeons in operating theatres and pilots in landing and take-off. They could also extend to giving supportive, risk-mitigating, potentially life-enhancing feedback through the monitoring of the emotional, and psychological and physiological wellbeing of a user.